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you think a work, which holds the light of genius so far above me, destitute of its great essentials. Permit me to thank you very warmly for shewing me the impropriety of my epithet swart for a sunbeain. Misled by the “ swart star” of Milton, I had associated no other idea but that of sultriness to the word, nor once reflected that, in using it for noon-day heats, I imputed the effect to the
I altered swart into fierce in the copy I intend for my miscellany, the instant I had read your last letter. Be assured I shall always receive your bservations upon any thing I write with the most cheerful gratitude, and endeavour to avail myself of them. Never yet have I felt the slightest reluctance to kiss the rod of friendly criticism. There are strange mistakes of press in my panegyric sonnet on the Mine, which I sent to the Gentleman's Magazine.
So we have lost the poet laureat. I always thought Mr Whitehead's abilities to oconsiderable for that rhyming drudgery; and now a yet greater bard undertakes the labouring oar of the boat which is to row our Monarch over one of the Pierian rivers.
Our concerts this winter have been very delightful. Mr Saville's songs are always exquisite; and his fair pensive Philomel improves in every exertion. Attending frequently to Mr Saville's manner of instructing his daughter in a song that is new to her, it is curious to observe on what nice touches musical expression depends, and how necessary a feeling heart, and even poetic taste, to enable a professor to teach his pupils to sing with elegance, pathos, and
Lichfield, June 7, 1785. That poetic criticism had been so much your study, I did not indeed know till I learnt it from your last letter.
It was my idea, that the more important sciences had left you little time for the muses. Suffer me to observe, that was the highest compliment I could pay to the understanding of any man, who considers Mr
The misunderstood observation of Horace,
« Not to admire is all the art I know,
To make meu happy or to keep them so,"
has made thousands fastidious, inducing them to fancy such cold temperament a proof of wisdom and philosophy; but it is impossible Horace could stupidly assert, that insensibility to excellence was the means of happiness. By the word admire, he meant wonder. “ We ought not to wonder or be astonished at any of the events in life.” His axiom can extend no farther in all common sense. Our English poets have used admire as synonymous to astonish. After Macbeth's repeated starting from the banquet, his wife exclaims
6 You have displac'd the mirth, broke the good meeting
With most admird disorder.”
Misapprehension of the Horatian maxim has destroyed the powers of just criticism in countless minds, who might otherwise, perhaps, wishing to obtain a taste for classical excellence, have accomplished that desire, by indulging the habits of pleased attention to every various grace and beauty in poetic science..
The line you quote from Pope, about pure description holding the place of sense, has occasioned numbers, upon whom Nature never meant to inflict such an infirmity, affect, and in time acquire, blindness to the charms of poetic imagery,
and poetic landscape. Those enchanting compositions, the Seasons, are almost wholly descrip tive; yet know I not any poetry more capable of exalting the imagination, and expanding the heart.
As for your dislike to imperfect rhymes, which you would not allow, except in passages which express conflicting emotions, I will venture to assert, that, in general, whoever looks on poetry with the painter's eye, will find himself as little disposed to quarrel with his author for an imperfect rhyme in a passage of scenic description, as in one that conveys the struggles of impassioned affection. All our best writers continually give us precedents for their usage.
A poet will lose much more on the side of
grace pression, than he will gain on the side of jingle, by narrowing his scale of rhymes in the pursuit of imaginary perfection, which, when attained, cloys the very ear by its sameness. Pope, the most musical of all our bards, gives us the imperfect rhymes very lavishly in all his verses, and equally in his picturesque as in his pathetic passages. Out of instances innumerable, I shall select a few.
First, rob’d in white the beauteous nymph adores, With head uncoverd, the cosmetic powers,” &c.
« Soft yielding minds to water glide away,” &c.
I rang'd the crystal wilds of air,
Rape of the Lock.
“ So Zembla's rocks, the beauteous work of frost, Rise high in air, and glitter on the coast.”
Temple of Fame.
One of the most musical of all his ever-musical couplets rhymes imperfectly; sufficient proof that such imperfection does not of itself wound the ear : observe it
4 Let softer strains ill-fated Henry mourn, And palms eternal flourish round his urn."
You profess also an aversion to notes in poetry. In the extract I sent you from Dr Darwin's beautiful poem, yet unpublished, the Botanic Garden, you spurn the note concerning the vast variety of mosses, and call it pedantic, because it tells you what you already know. To me, and to thousands, who may feel the poetic beauties of this work, the note is interesting and instructive. All poetic allusions to facts, or to branches of science, not universally known, demand notes. Mr Aikin,